Day Two – Thursday October 4, 2018


D4648BFB-94A7-4090-BE74-EBF9318BC863Good morning from the Capital Limited!  It’s 8:45 AM, Eastern Time as I write this from the couch in Room E in car 2900, as our room has been turned back into its daytime version.  According to the schedule, we should be about an hour from Chicago, with scheduled arrival there at 8:45 Central Time. Phil our car attendant, however, just announced that our arrival time will be more like 11 to 11:30 due to delays during the night.  Frankly, this is a good situation for us, as we probably won’t be able to board the Southwest Chief till about 2:15, and we’d much rather be sitting on the train, than in a station waiting room.  The view is much better from here!!  

Before I continue with today, let’s give you an idea of our sleeping arrangements last night.

Thanks Babe…as always, I owe you!  

An update…we just stopped at Waterloo, Indiana, where the schedule had us at 6:36 AM.  We stopped at 9:26, fully 2 hours and 50 minutes behind schedule. It’s scheduled to be about 3 hours and 10 minutes from Waterloo to Chicago, so if we don’t lose anymore time, we should make Chicago just before noon Central time. 

A brief look at the reason for these delays as I understand them.  Once you leave the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak doesn’t own the tracks the trains ride on.  Back when America was giving up on rail travel, and Amtrak was formed, most of America’s rail roads kept their freight operations going, because that was still profitable.  Fully 97% of the tracks Amtrak trains run on ARE NOT owned by Amtrak, because those tracks, and the freight trains running on them, are owned  by the lines or their heirs that gave up passenger service in the 20th Century.  So, the freight running on these lines, takes precedence over Amtrak and it’s schedules, which may necessitate an Amtrak train pulling onto a siding and waiting while a freight train rumbles past. This happened to us several times last night, and you know how long freight trains can be!  

Because the Capital Limited lacks a Dining Car, the included breakfast this morning was a box breakfast in the Sleeper Lounge. A yogurt parfait, a muffin, some fresh fruit, and a hot tea.  We heard some grumbling, but we didn’t have a problem with it, but we are looking forward to the Southwest Chief having a Dining Car AND kitchen!  Stay tuned for real meals!  Oh, another item…some folks are just so cheap!  There was a couple across from us this morning who apparently didn’t like the breakfast, and who did they take it out on?  Why the young lady working the lounge!  “Tip for that breakfast?  No way”.  Glad we’re not “those people” and never have been!  

An update….we just arrived at Chicago’s Union Station!   It’s 12 Noon Central time,  and we were scheduled to be here at 8:45 AM.    Here’s some views as we headed into the station.

We’re now in the Amtrak’s Metropolitan Club in Union Station, and it was a zoo, till they just announced two trains!  Folks are crazy.  When they put out some snacks (cheese and some veggies), you’d have thought most folks hadn’t eaten in months!!  It’s much quieter now!  This place is brand new and beautiful.  Here’s what we’ve got now. 

Talk to you next from Train 3…the Southwest Chief!


So welcome to Room C of Car 330, on the Southwest Chief.  The room is exactly like what we had last night, but Susie and I think this train is newer.  Life will be easier today as we know what to expect, but we may miss Phil, last night’s Sleeping Car Attendant. We had not an auspicious start, as the door to our car was closed, and we had to stand and wait for somebody to show up!   We’ll see how things go, but we already asked her about wash cloths and hand towels and she said, “they’re there”…they’re not!  Fingers crossed for the next 2 nights on the train!  

At 2:47 they announced, “close all access doors” and just after 2:50 we chugged out of Union Station.  We’ve already made our first stop at Naperville, Illinois.  Quick, extra credit if you can name one of the movies, Naperville and an Amtrak train played a supporting part in?  I can think of two off hand.  Leave it in the comment section below for a grand prize!  (FYI…the “Grand Prize” is just my gratitude for reading this far!)

The Dining Car Steward has already come around and we have a dinner reservation tonight at 6:30, and we’re looking forward to see what kind of meals an Amtrak Dining Car can dish out.  Here a layout of the Dining Car if you’re interested.  


Susie has already found the ice (and the wash cloths) but we’ve yet to “officially” meet our Sleeping Car Attendant, but we are ready to enjoy the next 40+ hours on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief!  Cheers!!!


Now it’s just time to relax, and watch America pass by our picture window!  

Okay..I just went and got more ice, and had a very nice conversation with our Car Attendant.  Her name is Pinky, and she’s worked for Amtrak for 40 years. She lives in LA 2 blocks from the station, and her Dad lives in Chicago.  She works one week on and one week off, so twice a month she’s with her Dad overnight.  I think everything’s going to be fine, different, but fine!  

Right around 6:30, we crossed the Mississippi River, leaving Illinois and entering Iowa.  The sun was just going down, and I don’t think beautiful is an adequate description!

Shortly after that, we got called to the Dining Car for our 6:30 reservation!  We’d been looking forward to this, and if tonight’s meal was any indication, we won’t be disappointed!  Amazing what you can do with a real kitchen and a real Dining Car.  Last night’s meal was ok, but nowhere near tonight’s standard!  I said to Susie, that back in January when I booked this trip, the Capital Limited had a Dining Car.  They took the car away in the Spring to save money, but never sent me any money back!  I don’t think we got what we paid for!


And as to dinner?  We started with a glass of nicely chilled Pino Grigio, and both chose for our entree the Land and Sea.  A perfectly cooked NY Strip Steak, accompanied by a Crab, Shrimp, and Scallop Cake, with string beans and a baked potato!  It was very good!  And then to top it off, a taste of Greek Yogurt Cheesecake.  Take a look!

Then it was back to our bedroom for a round of 5000 and a perfectly chilled glass of Titos Vodka.  Pretty soon Pinky will turn our day room into a night room, and our second night on the road (the RAIL road) will begin!   

Here’s Susie in the hall outside Bedroom C.


So far, we are having a great time!  Since leaving Chicago, the views have been great. When the sun comes up tomorrow morning, we should be in Colorado (At least that’s where we’re scheduled to be)  and the view should be getting even better!  We know train travel isn’t for everybody, but so far, we’re really enjoying our trip!  We should see some spectacular sights tomorrow and can’t wait to share them!

See you on day 3!

All Aboard

A number of years ago, when our kids Billy, Krissi and Kenny were much younger, I wrote a series of three children’s stories that starred our 3 kids.  The first was called Three Kids and a Bone, and was about them finding a dinosaur bone in our backyard.  The second was called Three kids on the Boardwalk, and involved adventures on the Ocean City Boardwalk.  The third was called, Three Kids and a Train Ride, and for this, I pulled from my memories of riding the rails as a young kid with my folks.  

For over 40 years, my Mom and Dad were members of the Metropolitan Opera Chorus, and every year the Met went on a Spring Tour across the country.  In later years, they did it by air, but when I was a kid, trains were still in vogue as a means of transportation, especially for moving a group as large as the Metropolitan Opera.  So for Three Kids and a Train Ride, I pulled from my memories of those years and from my experience traveling on the 20th Century from New York to Chicago to visit my Mom’s Mom and Dad. 

Unfortunately, the stories were never published, and only got to be enjoyed by the 3 kids they were written about.  It was so long ago, that instead of being written on a computer, they were the product of an old Royal portable typewriter, that had belonged to my Mom and Dad, but if you’d like to see how my version of train travel differs from today’s reality, click on the link below and you can read Three Kids on a Train Ride!

3 Kids on a Train Ride

So, perhaps because I wrote this story so long ago, or because of the way the allure of rail travel has been portrayed in movies, like Alfred Hitchcocks’ North by Northwest, or the movie Silver Streak, or even the James Bond movie Live and Let Die, Susie has always wanted to take an overnight train.  She’s been jealous of the memories I have, and wants her own, and to check off another Bucket List item, we’re going to make it happen.

On this Wednesday morning, we’ll leave Ocean City and drive to the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  There, after parking the car at the airport lot, we’ll take an Uber to 30th Street Station and at 11:11, board the Northeast Regional, sit in 2 Business Class seats and relax till we get to Washington, DC.  Later that day, we’ll board the Capital Limited, for our first overnight in an Amtrak Bedroom, in Car 2900, Room E., and travel through the night and arrive in Chicago, Illinois the next morning at Union Station.  That afternoon, we will board the Southwest Chief and travel in Room C of Car 330, where we’ll spend 2 nights as we travel to Los Angeles, California!


img_0878The Southwest Chief is the Amtrak successor to the famous Santa Fe Super Chief.  It was dubbed the “Train of the Stars” because of the celebrities it carried between Chicago and Los Angeles in the days before air travel.  The route takes the train through some of the most beautiful scenery the United States has to offer, and it will be right outside our bedroom window.  

img_0877Speaking of the bedroom, let me give you an idea of what our accommodations will be between Washington, DC and Chicago, and then between Chicago and Union Station, Los Angeles.  Although not huge, our bedrooms will be set in the daytime with a long couch, easy chair, a table by the window, and our own bathroom with a sink, shower, and toilet.  At night, the room will be changed into a bedroom with an upper and lower bunk (haven’t worked that out yet), but still with that gorgeous view right out the window!

And what about meals you ask?  Why we get three meals a day in the Dining Car included in our fare.  Speaking about fare, it’s costing us about $1500 for the trip from Philadelphia to Los Angeles.  We think its very reasonable for what we’re getting!


img_0884We really can’t wait to experience everything we can on our three days to LA.  From our room, to the dining car, to the observation lounge, to the view out the windows…and let’s not forget the “clickity clack” of the rails. We are looking forward to it all.  

We’ve had this trip booked for months, and it seems to excite everyone we tell about it.  We’re excited of course by the journey, but also about what’s at the end of our trip,  Kenny and Christopher’s Wedding in Lake Tahoe, California!  Stay tuned for updates along the way!

Talk about New Adventures……